Emmanuel Macron got up early this Tuesday, February 21. Around 5:30 a.m., he put on the white coat to wander between the carcasses of meat and the crates of vegetables at the Rungis wholesale market. A form of homage to France which gets up early and is not afraid to work hard. “We have to work longer”, he launched to the courageous grocers and to the morning journalists who accompanied him.
On the other side of the Channel, we curiously take the opposite route. The idea of the four-day week is becoming the hot topic. How about starting the weekend on Thursday evening for the same salary? This is the large-scale experiment carried out by the very serious University of Oxford at the instigation of the New Zealand association 4 Day Week Global, which campaigns for the multiplication of experiments of this type in the world. The one conducted in the UK is the largest to date. It involved 61 companies for six months which were followed by researchers from Oxford and Boston College.
The results, published on Tuesday February 21, are encouraging: 92% of these test companies, SMEs in finance, telecoms, health, IT or catering, decided to continue the experiment, and eighteen between them have, without waiting, permanently applied this new mode of organization. The advantages put forward are better employee loyalty, with 57% fewer departures, a two-thirds reduction in sick leave and stress. And general well-being.
Better employee loyalty
All this for turnovers that have not fallen, and even slightly increased. Because the condition of success was the maintenance of the same productivity. No question that the company pays the invoice by a reduction in its profitability. By what miracle? The actors cite the reduction in meetings, the motivation of employees not to waste time and to find solutions allowing them to work more efficiently.
The reduction of working time is a centuries-old fight started at the beginning of the XXe century: 48 hours in 1919, then 40 hours in the 1930s, then 35 hours in early 2000 in France, and now the United Kingdom is testing 32 hours. The experience, especially French, pushes all the same to moderate a little the current Anglo-Saxon enthusiasm. Maintaining or even improving work productivity by working less is a challenge that is difficult to hold over time and is often paid for by greater pressure on employees.
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